Greetings From Berrydale
Ryan Lauderdale's quasi-psychedelia and Michael Berryhill's stylized visions have little relationship, but both artists make a strong showing
Reviewed by Amanda Douberley, Fri., Feb. 22, 2008
'Greetings From Berrydale'
Okay Mountain, through March 15
The playful combination of Michael Berryhill's and Ryan Lauderdale's names in the title of Okay Mountain's current two-person exhibition has a good ring to it, but the artists' works mix less fluently. Both have exhibited around Austin in group shows over the last couple of years, and "Greetings From Berrydale" provides a well-deserved, in-depth look at the work of each. But whereas the best two-person exhibitions encourage a visual conversation, drawing out aspects of each artist's work through shared themes or contrasting methods, this pairing does little for either.
Lauderdale applies the art-nouveau-inspired stylization of late-1960s poster and album-cover art to drawings based on group photographs from a youth church camp. This strange combination of imagery was inspired by Lauderdale's simultaneous encounter with the latter and popular music during his childhood. Bold black lines outline rainbow-colored patterns that take the form of mastaba-shaped scales, flowers, and horizontal bands of color. The decoration overtakes each figure, melding them into a total design that may allude to losing oneself in music, religion, or both.
This mixture of cult and pop music carries over into the artist's video works. In by far the most entrancing video installation to appear in Austin in recent memory, the face of a man wearing large, dark sunglasses fills the screen of a monitor set up like an altar. The video is reflected in a candle-lined mirror that sits flat on the floor, while a Persian rug and long black-light tubes extend up the wall. His singing seems slowed-down and distorted, almost like a chant. It is at once creepy, mysterious, and oddly soothing; watching the video, I feared I could be easily indoctrinated.
Berryhill's paintings and drawings have an air of American scene or regionalist painting with an amplification of that era's surreal undertones. Draped shapes appear in several works, enigmatically looming in desolate landscapes. A small painting of stacked eyeballs crisscrossed with yellow streaks of paint and crowned by a patch of wavy hair is even more bizarre.
What ties these works together is Berryhill's distinctive quality of line. It moves in wispy waves and hairy curlicues, endowing his still lifes with movement and lending his figures a frenetic energy. This is most apparent in the large graphite drawings that are his best pieces in the show, as well as in a series of T-shirts that fills one wall in the gallery's back room. Berryhill's idiosyncratic vision has little relationship with Lauderdale's quasi-psychedelic art, but both artists make a strong showing in this introductory exhibition.